Technology / 07.07.2011

POTUS Responds to Questions at the World’s First Twitter Townhall Event

POTUS Twitter Town Hall

The President of the United States (POTUS) reached out to Americans, and the world at large, by calling for questions regarding important topics affecting the United States. The questions were posted by using #AskObama, which allowed for all tweets to be gathered and monitored. The event was sponsored and hosted by Twitter (// and questions were asked live by Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey and answered by POTUS himself at a press conference in the East Room of the White House. Tweets began to pour into the #AskObama hashtag hours before the event even began. Twitter employed the aid of Mass Relevance, an organization who, according to their website:

Creates relevant and real-time content experiences to engage your audience on TV, web, mobile. [source]

The questions were selected at random using curators. The formula is unknown at the time of this post, but according to the Twitter Townhall homepage yesterday:

Retweet questions you support. Seasoned Twitter users with experience discussing the economy will also retweet questions. Twitter Search algorithms identify the most engaged-with Tweets. [source]

This event marked the first time in history that the POTUS live-tweeted during the event. It is worth noting that “- bo” is the signature of tweets posted by the POTUS himself.

White House Tweet

What exactly are the implications of this event, besides the POTUS answering questions from his constituents live via Twitter? It isn’t a mystery that Twitter is a medium that is globally utilized by many companies and organizations to facilitate dialogue with their audience(s). I think the echo of this political event powerfully demonstrates the interfacing capabilities that Twitter can afford and signals the potential for another huge shift in the political sphere and perhaps the marketing sphere as well.

CNN posted an observation that struck me:

[Updated at 3:06 p.m.] Another interesting observation from CNN’s Shawna Shepherd: Obama answers at least twice as many questions at twitter @townhall than he usually answers at news conferences in same time frame. [source].


In the age of Twitter, it is easy for a web/mobile service to become obfuscated by varying objectives and mass amounts of users. For the POTUS to take this opportunity to interface with Americans from all walks of life and along both party lines, makes it clear that Twitter is a force to be reckoned with — a place where anyone’s voice can be heard clearly amidst clutter.

Moreover, it is important to consider the implications of the Twitter Townhall event. Is this the new face of townhall meetings? How can brands of all sizes utilize this form of live exchange as a way to reach their communication objectives? This event raises these important questions regarding new media and its effectiveness. For the first time in history, the POTUS was able to answer questions from Americans of all ages and all locations in a manner that was fast, streamlined, and easy-access for all levels of involvement.

At Grafik, we encourage all of our clients to embrace the dialogue opportunities Twitter can help foster (reminds me of Brad’s Twitter customer service blog post). As seen in this event, Twitter can be used not only as platform to distribute information, but also as a powerful tool that allows you to cut through all the noise and directly converse with your audience whether you are an individual, company, organization or governing body.

If you missed yesterday’s press conference, the video is available at

Brad Clark

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